One of my fondest childhood memories is waking up on Sunday mornings to my dad playing his old country records. My dad is that way about life: up and ready to go. Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Eddy Arnold, Tex Ritter. Some good stuff. It's become a habit of mine to listen to tunes on Sunday mornings and on a rainy Sunday morning such as this I was thinking about my favorites. Bob Dylan's Blood On The Tracks probably got the most plays in my Sunday rotation. I listened to this alot in the summer of 1990, when I lived at home and cherished any moment I had the house to myself. I was dating a girl with red hair who drove up from Erie to see me for the weekend. She was with me when I bought it and it made me think of her for a long time whenever I played it ("wondering if she had changed at all, if her hair was still red"). I would put the speakers out the window of my bedroom and do laps in the pool. I had to really crank it up to hear it. Nothing like starting a Sunday morning with "Tangled Up In Blue". I always thought the lyrics were about me. I had to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flewwww. From the desperate wanderer of Blue to the man of lament in "If You See Her, Say Hello", this album is full of bitterness and melancholy that fits perfectly into a Sunday morning. Maybe I'm just bitter and melancholy over losing my childhood, especially the Sunday mornings.
And it wouldn't be Sunday morning without Neil Young singing "Don't let it bring you down, it's only castles burning. Find someone who's turning, and you will come around." I love Neil and I love that he probably would tell you he has no idea what these lyrics mean. This is from the album After The Gold Rush, which includes the terrific and apropos Sunday morning title song. I love Neil because it's just feeling with him that matters. This is the difference between the Polyanna bullshit in art that I hate and a from-the-gut artist like Neil Young. My favorite Sunday morning music doesn't have the word "Sunday" in it because that would be as gay as a Nora Ephron film. Neil just feels it, goes with it, and becomes the conduit for music that comes from somewhere else. Look at a beautiful blue sky. Is it perfect? What about the sky the next day? Is that one perfect? Beauty takes all different forms, which reminds me of my favorite song lyric of all time and the philosophy of my life: And the poets down here don't write nothin' at all, they just stand back and let it all be. That's what Neil Young does. I also like this record for the cover of the Don Gibson country classic "Oh Lonesome Me."
Speaking of country music, there's something about Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash and Red-Headed Stranger and At Folsom Prison. I grew up with a boy named Larry Torpey (Larry came from a very nice, loving family who were weird and didn't celebrate Halloween. Larry was a geek who carried this huge bassoon or something like that on the bus every day, and the a-holes we rode the bus with would check the big instrument case into Larry's shoulder on their way by. He went on to become a doctor with (I'm sure) a very nice family of his own. I am being facetious when I call his family weird and Larry a geek, but that is how kids treated him. His dad was maybe the nicest person ever, as was his mom. If the meek inherit the Earth, then the Torpeys will be at the head of the line when the Ark launches) and when we were in elementary school Larry had a box of crayons and this thing, the thing he could do well, was draw Johnny Cash behind prison bars. Johnny was on the side of Larry's crayon box, square jaw, hands gripping the bars. Johnny Cash never spent time in prison unless you consider serious drug addiction a prison. At Folsom Prison has the great "Cocaine Blues" on it, as well as "Jackson" (a duet with June) and the adrenaline-fueled "I Got Stripes". You can hear Johnny's voice and music bounce off the concrete walls of the prison.
I didn't fall in love with Red-Headed Stranger until I was in my thirties, but Willie's record of sin and salvation couldn't be more perfect for a Sunday morning. If you get the remastered version it includes a song called "Bonaparte's Retreat", a stomping-quick musical number that I have compulsively played over and over. I don't know how he did it but Willie took country standards, added his own songs ("Can I Sleep In Your Arms Tonight" "Denver") and melded them into a moody, coherent, theme-filled album.
If you can take it, Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue (almost too much emotion) is fantastic. I'm not a big jazz guy but this music hits me in the gut. I don't have the musical knowledge to analyze it, I just know that it seems like the music is washing over me. There are some other songs that I like for melancholy moods. The best of (don't judge me!) Carly Simon, if only for "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be", is good. I also saved the best for last. Otis Redding. I love Otis. I have since I was six or eight and I heard "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay." I've gone on to buy his other stuff which is just as good and maybe better. I still haven't bought his performance from the Monterey Pop Festival (it's on dvd) but I attached Otis doing two of his classics below. But if Sundays are made to be mellow then "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay" is the most fitting.